Latin for Gardeners: March 2019

March’s Native Maryland Plant
Mertensia virginica (L.) Pers. ex Link
(mur-TEN-see-uh vur-JIN-ih-kuh)


March is optimism month – how appropriate. Nothing makes me feel more hopeful than seeing the emergence of spring flowers pushing through the ground in my garden – especially the Mertensia virginica! I was introduced to this ephemeral in May 2013 by my friend and fellow gardener, Aylene Gard. Early on as a Mstr. Gardener I volunteered to help Aylene pull garlic mustard from Middle Patuxent. After pulling buckets of spectacularly deep-rooted invasive plants we passed through a colony of Virginia bluebells, a glorious field of blue – how quickly it changed our mood.

I determined at that moment that I wanted to experience that feeling and that native blue flower in my garden every spring – I sought it out at native plant sales and planted it the following year. It has been a spectacular success, colonizing in both locations where I planted it. I have since learned that because of its ability to colonize quickly, it is a crucial spring pollinator plant, especially for female bumble bees.


Mertensia sp.  flower buds are pink, the funnel shaped flowers are usually blue, but pink and white are also seen. They thrive in bright sun in spring where they are eventually shaded out by deciduous canopy.  They’ll bloom for weeks, each fertilized flower producing four flat seeds within wrinkled nuts; soon after they go dormant until the following spring.

Research tells us that optimistic people are better at doing one thing then those with a different outlook on life. They are problem-solvers, moving quickly from problem identification to problem-solving. I’ve already made plans to celebrate optimism every month, I’ll need to if I’m going to succeed at my next project: tackling my wet clay garden once and for all. April rains will be here soon!


~ Alison Milligan – MG/MN 2013
Master Watershed Steward Class 7